Bridgepoint Health

Physical Impacts Are the Tip of the Iceberg for Complex Patients, Bridgepoint Research Reveals

Posted on Wednesday July 30, 2014

When Dr. Kerry Kuluski began her complex care research at the Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research & Innovation three years ago, the term “complexity” carried a hint of taboo. Now, her team’s research is informing changes in the way we care for patients with multiple health conditions. In the current issue of Illness, Crisis and Loss, Kerry and her research team reveal the personal impact of living with multiple chronic conditions, and the gap between patient needs and health system realities. In this Q&A, she explains their findings.

What did your research reveal?

Talking to hospital patients and their families, we learned that physical impairments that may accompany chronic disease are only the tip of the iceberg for many people. The impact of chronic disease on the person’s social life, social roles, recreation, mental health and finances really shape their experience – and their needs.

What was the most surprising thing you learned from patients?

It became clear through our research that the disconnection between what our healthcare system has to offer, and what patients need, is much greater than we had previously thought.

How is your research informing solutions to fix that gap?

Bridgepoint has made huge investments to turn our hospital facility into a centre of excellence for complex care. We have invested in mental health staff, clinician-scientists and are in the midst of designing and testing new models of care delivery to improve assessments and transitions for our patients.

Complementing these changes, Bridgepoint’s Quality Improvement Plan and long-term strategy reflect a commitment to better engage patients and families. Bridgepoint’s active healthcare approach is designed to ensure that patients and families are active members of their healthcare team, resulting in the best possible hospital experience, and a confident transition back to their homes and communities.

You started this research three years ago. Since then, what has changed?

The word “complexity” in research and practice is definitely less taboo than it was three years ago. Bridgepoint is pushing to change practice to better meet the needs of people with complex chronic disease; in doing so, we’re increasing awareness and inspiring others to advocate change across the system. We’re not going to change the healthcare system overnight, but small single improvements can go a long way. We started with things like the Bridgepoint Study, where we talked to patients to hear what it was like for them. Now, we are saying, “okay, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

If there was one simple thing we could change within the healthcare system today to better serve complex patients, what would it be?

There’s so much potential for improvement. One simple thing we could start doing right away is to ask two simple questions of every patient who sets foot into the healthcare system: “What is most important to you?” and “How can we help you achieve this?”

“Life Interrupted: The Impact of Complex Chronic Disease from the Perspective of Hospitalized Patients” is available in Illness, Crisis and LossVolume 22, Number 2. For more information on Kerry’s research, visit our website. To get the latest Bridgepoint news delivered to your inbox, subscribe to our news feed.